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Selecting Hispanic-American Books for the Classroom

Educators have a daunting responsibility for selecting high-quality literature that authentically represents many distinct cultural backgrounds. Here are some helpful suggestions for selecting Hispanic and Hispanic-American books for classroom use:

  1. Recognize the nature of the labels "Hispanic" and "Hispanic-American," which are umbrella terms that encompass many distinct cultural backgrounds from Central and South America, Spain, and the Caribbean.

  2. Distinguish between Hispanic and Hispanic-American literature. Books set in Hispanic countries are valuable for classroom use, but should not supplant those that represent the bicultural experiences of Hispanic Americans living in the U.S. Many children of Hispanic descent in America's classrooms may connect more readily to books set in the U.S. that reflect the mix of cultures woven into their everyday lives.

  3. Look for well-written and beautifully illustrated books that present positive and authentic images of Hispanics and Hispanic-Americans. Good culturally conscious books can communicate to children what it means to be proud of their heritage and experience as Hispanic-Americans. Try to include books that go beyond the surface aspects of a culture, like specific holidays and foods, to those that reflect deeper cultural values such as the concern and respect shown between generations in families. For example, Too Many Tamales! by Gary Soto and Erandi's Braids by Antonio Madrigal present young children with warm images of love and caring between generations in Mexican and Mexican-American families.

  4. Consult award lists specifically honoring varied genres of Hispanic and Hispanic-American books. The biennial Pura Belpré Award for Latino Children's Literature selects excellent examples of high-quality multicultural literature that can be enjoyed by all children, such as Chato's Kitchen and Chato and the Party Animals by Gary Soto. The annual Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature also specializes in honoring books that reflect Hispanic and Caribbean cultures, such as the excellent photo-essay Fiesta, U.S.A. by George Ancona.

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Brought to you by Penguin Young Readers Group.


The Penguin Group is the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world. The company possesses perhaps the world's most prestigious list of best-selling authors and a backlist of unparalleled breadth, depth, and quality. Penguin Young Readers Group features books by authors and illustrators including Judy Blume, Brian Jacques, Eric Carle, and beloved characters like Winnie-the-Pooh, Madeline, The Little Engine that Could, and many, many more.

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